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Chile

Chile – Valparaiso

semi-overcast 23 °C

Valparaiso is renowned for its massive fireworks displays that it puts on over New Years, unfortunately for us, we were flying out on the 30th so we just had a couple of days to see the city minus the fireworks extravaganza. On the flip side however, as the Chileans all come to Valparaiso for the celebrations, hostels are about 4 times their normal price, so we at least saved some money.

After getting in early in the morning from Pucon, we got out to our hostel and dropped our bags off before heading for some breakfast. After getting checked in we went for a walk down to the harbour to see what was on offer. Being a main port, there wasn’t much to see here apart from container ships, navy ships and a lot of boats offering cruises of the bays.

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The place we were staying was a nice little hangout run by a couple of blokes. They put on a BBQ in the evening which was great with hot dogs, big steaks and loads of salad. The following day a couple from the hostel were being shown around by a Chilean friend they knew, and invited us along. We met up with their friend in the main square and headed towards the outskirts of the city to a cave along the rocks. Climbing over the fence and rock climbing down we got close to the pounding waves. On the way back up we got offered some abalone from a bloke who had been picking them from the rocks (highly doubt it was legal to be picking them at this time of the year).

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We walked further along the coast back toward the city. There were fireworks set up all along the cost ready for the big show on New Years Eve.

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We headed up the hills to get high above the city for some good views. Valparaiso is definitely a lot bigger than we were expecting.

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One of the main things that Valparaiso is known for is the colourful buildings and street art around the streets. Walking around the town we certainly saw plenty of brightly coloured buildings. Here are a few examples

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After finishing being shown around, we headed to an area that is renowned for its street art. The first part that we saw was really cool. There were steps heading up a little alley way that had almost every bare surface painted. A lot of it was really intricate, with lots of detail. Sadly after such a good start, we didn’t see anything else that compared.

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We had a meal out with a few other people from the hostel before getting back and packing the bags for an early morning taxi to the bus station to get back to Santiago for our flight up to Lima.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – There isn’t a great deal in Valparaiso, but yet it does have something cool about the place. We were happy to spend the few days there rather than back in Santiago. The build up to New Years was massive, lots of street sellers with plenty of new years stuff for sale and a lots of people around the streets. Im sure the celebrations would have been massive.

Tanya – I was taught how to say good vibes in Spanish but i forget! Basially Valparaiso had a great vibe! For a city it was really cool and the colours were amazing! It was just a shame to miss the fireworks.

Posted by dbgomes 19:53 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (0)

Chile – Pucon

A Volcanic Christmas

sunny 30 °C

We didn’t have any plans of where we were going to be for Christmas, but once we started to look at possible places that fit into the logistics of heading north through the country, there was only one candidate that stood out... Pucon! Active snow-capped volcano, thermal springs, lakes, adventure activities – we were sold!!

We flew out of Puerto Natales after the W trek, spent a night in Puerto Montt before getting a bus up to Pucon on the 22nd December. When we arrived in town I was telling Tanya to look out for the Volcano Villarrica because it is supposed to be rather imposing standing above the town. I was a little disappointed, Ok, there was a bit of cloud around, but surely we should be able to see some evidence of a volcano, somewhere???

We got our bearings around town, and booked in for our climb up the volcano for Christmas eve. The weather forecast for the following few days were showing as clear, sunny and heating up to 30 degrees by Christmas so that would be good conditions for the climb. We bumped into another couple from the Antarctica boat while we were walking around town. Kelly and Matt live in Perth too, so we had plenty to chat about when we were on the Antarctica boat. Funnily enough they were also staying at the same hostel as us. They were unfortunately in town for their last day, so they gave us plenty of tips about the area, and we gave them the heads up for Mendoza where they were off to for Christmas.

When we woke up on the 23rd, it was a perfectly clear day, not a cloud in the sky! When we were sat at the breakfast table, I looked up from my bowl out the window... Holy crap!!! The volcano was now stood there in all its glory with some light smoke bellowing from the peak.

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We spent some time looking round the town again and walking down to the volcanic lake beach with its black sands and good views. We found a restaurant that became our number one choice in town. It served great unique food, including Antarctic Krill (the extremely small prawn like stuff that whales and seals eat). I had it served in ravioli with camembert cheese and dill sauce. It was great.

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Krill on the menu

In evening, with the sun setting through some distant haze lit up the volcano in a brilliant red colour.

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Waking at 3.55am on Christmas eve might sound a bit stupid, and at the time it felt a bit like it. But we were getting up this early to get up the volcano before the crowds later in the day. Ben and Chantelle had told us about the company ‘Backpackers’ in town who set off at 4.30am which is a couple of hours before the other companies in town. As we were driving up to the starting point in the darkness, there was a distinctive red glow that we could see at the top of the volcano.

Hopping out of the bus with the 7 other French tourists in our group, the buffeting winds were screaming around the volcano. After an hour walking headlong into the wind up the pumice slopes, with volcanic ash in our eyes we got to the refuge of a ski lift hut for some breakfast. After donning our crampons and ice pick we headed off for 4 hours of uphill walking that was an altitude gain of 1400m! Thats more altitude gain over one climb than we did on Machu Picchu or the W Trek! We got to see the sun rise over the distant peaks, but the relentless wind, icy slopes and steep gradients made sure we were working hard!

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Finally after 5 hours of hard slog we filled our lungs with sulphur, coughed a little and looked into the throat of the volcano. We couldn’t see much apart from the bellowing steam from deep in the crater but the sense of accomplishment just being there was enough to make our Christmas Eve one to remember for a long time!!

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The best thing about slogging 5 hours uphill on snow and ice, is that the downhill is made a lot more fun! Removing the crampons and attaching our sliding ‘nappy’ and plastic disc we hopped onto the ice slides and were downhill in no time! It was a great experience and a fun way to finish off a memorable Christmas Eve.

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On the evening, our hostel put on a big BBQ for the guests. It was a great spread and a nice way to spend the evening with the other guests, the Chilean ladies who owned the hostel and their family.

Christmas morning we made our Skype calls to the family in UK and Australia and it was good to chat and feel a little closer to home. We relaxed for the day and then headed out for our treat for the day. The volcanic activity in the area has created a number of natural thermal springs. We relaxed in the springs for a while before heading up for a great meal at the restaurant that this particular place had.

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After a relaxing morning on Boxing Day we took a bus out to the national park for a light stroll up to the mirador for views over the lakes and waterfalls before spending our final day relaxing and staying out of the heat while we waited for our night bus.

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Pucon was a lovely place to spend Christmas, the town it very picturesque itself, but adding the volcano and other sites of the area make it even better. The climb and slide down the volcano was the highlight for sure and quite a way to spend Christmas Eve!

Tanya – Although we could have crammed in a few more activities, it was nice to spend 5 days mostly relaxing over Christmas. Pucon was a fab town, although a bit touristy I really loved it. If im honest, I was a bit scared after a few stumbles on really steep sections of the volcano – looking at the angle of the volcano next to the horizon was a bit off-putting! One couple had turned back just before the glacier and I was secretly hoping I was with them as I tried to remind myself how to recover from a fall by digging in the ice pick. But the thought of sliding back down kept me trudging on! What a great Christmas!!

Posted by dbgomes 18:37 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (1)

Chile – Torres del Paine

Towers of Pain!

semi-overcast 23 °C
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A 5am bus, a border crossing, a few transfers and 16 hours later Dan and I arrived in Puerto Natales, the base for trekking in the beautiful Torres del Paine national park in Chile´s Patagonia.

Torres del Paine has a classic 5 day hiking route known as the W trek (because its follows the shape of a W to take in the most scenic highlights). There is also a circuit route and plenty of alternative trekking options in the park.

We had booked refugios in advance having heard that they book out early and I didn’t know if I could bear lugging a tent around on my back for the 60 km route which is notorious for being cold, wet and windy (Note from Dan – Im sure I would have ended up with the tent by the way!!!). We had chosen to walk east to west, starting from the towers and ending at the glacier.

Arriving at the Las Torres refugio for our first night, we just explored a bit around the area but didn’t actually start the W on the first day. We did see a group of wild hares and plenty of the local variations of llamas.

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The view on the way

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First day views from camp

The second day we set off on a hike up to the ‘towers’. A red fox trotted along past us after only 10 minutes. We have been really lucky with the wildlife, although no Puma sightings!
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13 days worth -of buffet meals in Antarctica had definitely taken its toll – after just half an hour of mild up-hill I was struggling!! After an hour or so though we got into our stride and could enjoy the beautiful scenery. After not long we crossed paths with Lyle and Heidi from the Antarctica boat which was a pleasant surprise. When we arrived at the Chilano Refugio we checked in and left one of the bags so we could continue with just a day pack. The stretch through the forest was nice and cool but following that there was a stretch of rock scrambling and a lot of uphill to get to the towers.

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We were well rewarded when we arrived as the postcard view was breathtaking!

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We found some rocks to shelter behind so we would eat our lunch out of the wind. After lunch we were about to head back but Dan suggested waiting around to see if the clouds might clear, which was a worthwhile cause. As the sun started to shine through for some perfect photos 15mins later.

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Walking back to the refugio was much easier as it was mostly downhill. We settled in for dinner and got plenty of tips from others on what the rest of the route was likely to entail.

The 3rd day was an easy 4 hour walk with beautiful views of the vividly green Lago Nordenskjold nestled in front of snow-peaked mountains. There is a shortcut you can follow for this section which offers the best views. Apparently the wildflowers we saw only blossom in December so we took photos of a few of these too.

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At the Los Cuernos refugio we ran into Neil, also from the Antarctica trip, going in the opposite direction! We had plenty of time to relax in the afternoon which was needed as we knew the next day was going to be a hard slog. We set off around 8am on the 4th day knowing we had about 10 hours ahead of us trekking up through the French valley, the middle section of the W. After walking along the lake again with its stunning green tinge, we got to leave one of the packs at camp Italiano after 2 hours of trekking, under a tree, knowing we would be heading back.

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The French valley had 2 beautiful lookout areas one about an hour into the valley right in front of Glacier del Frances and still with views back to Lago Nordenskjold. It was stunning and Dan was especially excited when we could hear the thunderous sound as the glacier was carving away on our way up. We got to see some good ice carving while we sat and ate our lunch in a sheltered spot out of the wind.

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Its about to go!!

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Further up the valley (after Dan got us lost twice!) was the premier look out! 360 degree views of stunning landscape, possibly the most beautiful natural scenery I’ve seen in my life. It was nice to just sit and take it all in. Dan went with another hiker to see if you could go further and see the 2 lakes but the cloud cover prevented the view and it was quite an off track excursion up a ravine and over a ridge. He did get some more good views from up there though.

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We continued back down the valley on mostly downhill and flat terrain. We crossed a ranger putting up markers at the places where we had lost the trail on the way up, but by now Dan was saying that he wanted some adventure on the way up so deliberately took the wrong turns... ! My feet were really bothering me by this point with multiple blisters on my toes (which I always get after a days hiking) but they were soo sore and I was worried about not completing the following day. I was worried that I would only be able to say that I trekked a cursive U instead of a W.

The Paine Grande refugio was very big but nice. Over dinner Gopala found us, another fellow Antarctica traveller. He had been trekking the full circuit route and was on his final stretch.

The 5th and final day I managed to shove my feet into my hiking shoes and we set out towards Glacier Grey. We had to be back at 6:30pm for the catamaran so didn’t think we’d have time to hobble up to the back of the glacier for views over the ice field. We did however make it to the main lookout point for panoramic views of the glacier folding around an island.

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We were actually really lucky with the weather as this was for the days after we left

5 days and around 60km on foot later, I’m very tired and my feet hurt but what an amazing trek! Some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen it was incredible!!

FINAL THOUGHTS
Tanya – After being in pretty good fitness when we started the trip, I’ve finally realised this holiday business is agreeing with me a bit too well. A bit of hard work and fresh air is just what I needed. The W trek was such a rewarding hike, the scenery was absolutely stunning!

Daniel – Seeing the torres was pretty awesome. Even after seeing it in so many pictures before the trip, it was still amazing especially when the sun came out perfectly for our time up there. The trail was good and a welcome bit of exercise after the Antarctic bingeing that we did!

Posted by dbgomes 14:43 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (0)

Easter Island - Expenses

sunny 22 °C
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We spent 4 nights on Easter Island

It’s not cheap on Easter island, much of the produce is flown in daily on the passenger flights and the larger items come in twice monthly on cargo ships. We stayed in a guest house which had cooking facilities, but with the price for cooking ingredients, we ended up usually having fresh seafood empanadas as that was a relatively cheap fast food alternative.

The guesthouse had Wifi, but the connection was very much dial up speeds (cant believe that’s how we all used to use the internet. The whole islands internet also went down when there was a bit of rain one morning)

The ‘activities’ below include the national park fee of 50,000 pesos, tour of 60,000 pesos and the quad of 30,000 pesos.

Values are in AUS $ which at present is on par with US $
Accommodation …………………. $352
Transport ……………………………. $0
Food …………………………………… $173
Activities …………………………….. $280
TOTAL ………………………………… $805

Per day for 2 people …………… $161
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Easter Island Accommodation:
Hanga Roa
‘Guesthouse Vaianny’
Web: residencialvaianny.com/us/index.php
Notes: Being welcomed at the airport with flower necklaces and Claudio being really helpful made it a good stay. Breakfast was included and was really good, varied and filling. Wifi was free but generally slow.

Easter Island Tour
Patricio Ballerino
Patricio.aotour@gmail.com
Notes: Really good guide of the island, had so much information to pass on and pointed out so many things that we would have missed.

Posted by dbgomes 07:21 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (0)

Chile – Easter Island/Rapa Nui

History 101 beneath every step

sunny 22 °C
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Everything you look at on this island is an archaeological find. For instance, the first day we were on the island, a new cave was found in the interior of the island with a unique statue in it. I thought these kind of things didn’t happen anymore as us humans seem to have reached every corner of the globe! Easter Island or Rapa Nui is a pretty special place. The pace is slow and the town is small but the charm and mystery of the island is gigantic!

A 5 1/2 hr flight from Santiago into the middle of the Pacific Ocean gets you to Rapa Nui, the most isolated inhabited island in the world. We were welcomed at the airport by Claudio from our guesthouse and presented with our flower necklaces, which was pretty cool. Turning straight out of the airport you are immediately turning again onto the main street in town. After an introduction to the island from Claudio at the hostel we just walked about town and got some dinner before going to look at our first Moai statues down at the shoreline.

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We timed this pretty well as the sun was setting. Now I’ve seen some pretty amazing sunsets, and Rio was putting up a good shout, but this evening the sky was so colourful and adding the Moai to the scene, made it one I am going to remember for a while!!! I can’t tell you much more but show you some examples of the changes as the sun went down…

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That was a pretty amazing way to spend our first evening on the island, and the next day we went on a tour of the island with Patricio Ballerino who is a Chilean man who married a lady from Easter Island and has been living here for 40 years so is practically a local. He had so much knowledge of the island and could answer any question I threw at him. I would highly recommend him!

So a quick history lesson (per legend anyway) before I go into what we saw.

A long time ago, this population of people (called Long-ears for the story as they wore earrings to lengthen their ears) were in trouble because their volcanic island was sinking. They sent 7 explorers out to find a place to live. The long-ears left their island to join the explorers and on the way picked up some slave short-ears from an island on the way. The Short-ears were more Polynesian looking than the longer faced taller Long-ears. Getting to Easter Island, the Long-ears were the high society and the Short-ears the low society. The population split into 15 different tribes across the island and started to build Moai to be the earthly statue of dead Long-ear chiefs. Different tribes were specialist in different things and traded amongst themselves but the short ears were always the work horses for the tribes.

The population at its height had 15,000 inhabitants. At a point in time (around 1540), something caused a big social upheaval (maybe famine by overpopulation, deforestation from working on the Moai, revolt by the Short-ears) and a war broke out between the two races. The Short-ears came into power and began their rule with selecting their ultimate leader from the winner of the birdman contest. The Short-ears did not build Moai either during or after the war. After taking power all but 3 Moai were pushed over by the new rulers. By the time Europeans arrived the population was down to 2 – 3000. After slave raiding, European diseases and eviction for sheep farming the population dropped to 111 people and only 36 had descendants. The island now has about 6000 permanent inhabitants.

For anyone thinking of coming to Easter Island, my single recommendation is to take a tour with a local guide. The Moai are impressive but without the stories, facts and details that the guide provides, once you have seen one, the rest look the same. If we were walking around by our self, we would have missed so many things that just look like piles of rocks! I will apologise now for the lengthy blog post, but the primary reason for the blog is to be a diary for Tanya and I, we saw so much so we want to keep a good record of it. Hopefully you aren’t too bored reading along.

Patricio picked us up from our guesthouse in his classic VW van for our tour round the island.

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We stopped at a few places along the south coast on our way out to the main quarry. At Vinapu it was interesting to see that the ‘ahu’ (stage) is constructed very accurately, aligned astronomically and resembles the stonework seen in the Inca empire which poses the question did the Islanders have contact with Inca people? There is also a female Moai at this site which is very unique. The view of the coast was pretty nice along here too

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Ahu Akahanga was another stop, which has a well preserved village. The foundations of the houses and earth ovens where all around, and there was a cave used by the Islanders as a shelter here too. The Moai all along here were toppled, but there was a special Moai at this location which gave scientists the knowledge that all Moai, were given eyes once they were placed on the ahu. This is because all the Moai at the quarry do not have rounded eye sockets, and this one here must have been about to be completed at the time of the war, as it too is without completed eye sockets. This is the kind of information that we would have missed by ourselves

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The incomplete Moai without rounded eye sockets

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The cave entrance

There was another Moai laid face down by the side of the road, that we stopped at. This one also did not have completed eyes, and is actually one that was in transport at the time of the war. At the outbreak of the war, everything literally stopped overnight and it’s interesting to see all this evidence around the island.

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Almost all 887 Moai around the island came from one location, the Rano Raraku quarry. The statues bodies were made from black volcanic tuff carved straight from the side of the volcano. This was the main stop of the day and it was so interesting. At the farthest reaches of the island, the huge statues were transported up to 15km across undulating ground from this quarry. This is just one of the many mysteries that are still unanswered.

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The Rano Raraku from a distance

A lot of the Moai here at the quarry appear to be standing up and not toppled over like at the ceremonial sites. This is because they were stood waiting to be transported and the earth and mud from the volcano slid down the slope partly burying them.

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This has provided some useful information though, as scientists at some points have dug this ground away revealing that at the quarry the Moai were much larger than they were when they were placed on the ahu (18m at the quary, 10m on the ahu). Legend says that the Moai were walked to their destination, and this could explain that through walking the Moai upright to their ahu, wore a considerable amount of the rock away. Digging the earth away also showed that with protection against erosion from the elements, the Moai all had intricate carvings over their bodies.

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We spent a while at the quarry walking around as there were so many things to see that we would have easily missed if we were there by ourselves. We saw the buried statues waiting to be transported, statues about to be taken from the rock face, some that were still just impressions on the mountain. Seeing them at all stages of construction really gave an appreciation for the effort that went into one, let alone 887 of them! There was even one that they gave up on where some workers would have been killed where the rock caved in on them as they were carving a tunnel to dig out the moai.

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Sizing this one up

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This just looks like mountain, but you can see the shape of a Moai still being carved

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Another one being carved from the rock

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This is just his head remember, there is a whole body underground

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Next stop was Tongariki, which is a famous site as it has the 15 Moai (the most ever erected on a single Ahu) which were all re-erected by the Japanese after a tsunami washed away the old remains back in the 60’s. This was pretty awesome to see how they would have looked in their prime. One of the statues here also has its top-knot on (a red headpiece that all Moai had which came from a different quarry on the island).

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The 15 as well as the 16th in the foreground which was in transport and just didn’t make it

We also stopped at Te Pito Kura which has the largest Moai erected on an ahu as well as a sacred rock that is positioned at the points of the compass. Legend has it that this rock came with the first settlers from their island, but it may have even been a meteorite as it is high in iron and is magnetised.

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The final stop for the day was Anakena which has some more re-erected Moai and a sand beach which looks like it as been artificially made when compared to the black volcanic rock coast around the rest of the island. It isn’t artificial however, but formed from the coral reef near here. Luckily, when these Moai were toppled into the sand, they have been well preserved and carved features on the status are really clear.

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We finished off the day with fresh seafood empanadas watching the sunset as the local surfers were out enjoying the waves

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The next day we wanted to get a quad bike so that we could go exploring the island some more. Walking down the main street we picked one up for 24hrs use and headed for the Rano Kau volcano just south of the town. The island is basically shaped like a triangle with the 3 main formation volcanoes at each point. We got up to the rim of the volcano in no time and got a few shots before heading round to Orongo which was a significant village in the islands history.

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The view over the airport and Hanga Roa

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Rano Kau

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Orongo was a powerful village after the fall of the Long Ears, as this village overlooks the island of Moto Nui. After the war, the overall leader of the population was determined from a competition known as the birdman. At the start of spring each year the competitors would have to scale the 300m vertical cliffs, swim out to Moto Nui and wait for the first egg from the Sooty Tern. The person who successfully brought back the first egg up the cliffs to Orongo was crowned the birdman and considered sacred.

The village itself is quite large and there has been a lot of reconstruction work done on it since the western world ransacked the village for the treasures of the ancients. The view out to Moto Nui was good as the sun was out. There are also a lot of rock carvings here.

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After leaving, we took a scenic ride along the south coast driving down many side tracks which the Quad bike easily handled. We did a similar thing in Greece as a quad is much more adept at getting down rocky or sandy tracks where a car would struggle.

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And the bike well and truly paid off when we took a turn down a track on the north coast and stumble across a little bit of paradise! We rounded a corner after hopping off the bike at a stone fence and were welcomed with a pristine white sand beach and red volcanic cliffs with absolutely no one around.

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We got out or towel and sat down for some lunch by ourselves on the beach and enjoyed the feeling of being on a deserted island. It was a really special moment of the trip so far and one that I will be remembering for a while! I went for a swim in the sheltered bay and the water was refreshing and fish were swimming around me once I was up to my waist in the water. The water was incredibly clear as well. I put my goggles on and went out to the reef just at the headland for a bit of a look round under water. We reluctantly left after a good hour or so there by our self, but the afternoon was starting to get on and we still wanted to visit some of the places on the north coast that we hadn’t seen yet

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The next destination was Puna Pau, which is a red volcano that was the quarry where all the top-knots came from for the Moai. Similar to Rano Raraku, there were top-knots at all stages of production in the quarry. The colour of the rock was very distinctive, so it was easy to see how striking a top-knot would have been on top of the black Moai.

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We drove further along the road to come across the Moai of the 7 original explorers which have been re-erected. Unlike most other Moai who have their back to the ocean, these face out to sea and are aligned so that they have the sunset and sunrise directly behind and in front of them during the equinoxes.

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The next few stops were a number of Caves that the Islanders used as shelter and hideouts. Ana Te Pahu is known as the Banana Cave as it has some banana trees in the open centre. Ana Te Pora and Ana Kakenga were both lava tube type caves which were pretty spectacular. The cave entrances were very hard to pick out amongst the rocky landscape, so its easy to see how they were good hideouts. Ana Kakenga was really unique as it is right near the coast and has two openings in the cliff face that look out to sea.

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Ana Te Pahu

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Ana Te Pora

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Ana Kekenga

We got back into town and I sat and watched two of the local football teams while eating some dinner and the sun setting behind me.

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The next morning we returned the quad bike and walked back out to Ana Kekenga with our head torches as we couldn’t go inside yesterday with it being completely pitch black in there. It took a couple of hours to walk out there, but worth the effort to go inside the cave

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We spent that afternoon and the following morning just hanging around town and looking for the perfect Moai statue souvenirs. We had a good 40 hours of travelling to do to get up to New York and we were monitoring the situation with hurricane Irene hoping that it wouldn’t stop us getting there for our friends wedding.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The sunsets, the deserted beach, the remoteness… these are all going to stay with me for a long long time. Easter island has been somewhere that I have always wanted to go from the first time I ever saw it on TV, and it didn’t disappoint one bit. It’s already started to get quite popular on the tourist trail, but I feel we were lucky to see it as it currently is, as another 10 years of tourism is probably change this remote corner of the globe, maybe not for the best.

Tanya – I loved being in an outdoor museum. There was soo much to see (in all honesty before we got there I thought there were one or two main sights and that was it). The variety of Moai’s,caves and carvings plus the natural scenery was amazing. It was also really cool to almost always be in sight of the ocean – it is an Island after all. Dan seemed to think it was pretty funny every time I grunted after landing back on the quad bike after he kept throwing me in the air at the high speeds he was going over the very very rocky terrain – my bum was a little tender after that. He also found it hilarious when I applied sun cream towards the end of the day when I was already covered in dust from quad biking and I managed to just spread dirt all over my face instead!! We had a fab time!!

Posted by dbgomes 14:05 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (3)

Chile – Santiago

It can be a little chilly in Chile

semi-overcast 12 °C
View Round The World on dbgomes's travel map.

This first visit to Santiago was supposed to be a quick airport stop on our way to Easter Island. Plane schedules didn’t agree and so we had two nights in Chile’s capital city. This isn’t a bad thing as it turns out, because we got a chance to do a few things and have a few days free now at the end of our schedule.

We got our flight out of Rio, with a quick 45min stop in Sao Paulo before getting into Santiago at around 10pm. This was our first flight on LAN who we will be doing about 9 flights with. After Iberia and British Airways (short haul plane) this is good news. Personal touch screens in each seat and power sockets in the seats... These are the little details that a nerdburger likes to have :-)

As we got in so late, a taxi was the only option. After getting checked in, we had a traditional Chilean meal of… Takeaway Chinese. Give us a break, there was nothing much around our hostel still open after 10:30!

After slightly oversleeping in the surprisingly comfy bunks, we hit the street to find the nearest metro stop to head into the city centre. First thing we noticed when getting onto the street was how cold it was. Winter in Rio felt like summer in England, but Santiago was more like we were used to. Santiago sits right next to the Andes, and the snow covered mountains are clear to see in the city. We had read that it was only a couple of hours bus to get to the closest snow fields, and really toyed with the idea of spending our day in Santiago with a snowboard strapped to our feet. We weren’t really organised enough to make it happen and if I was doing it again I would make the effort.

So with just a day to look round the city, we first headed over to the prominent hill in town. We took the funicular up the hill and looked around the top. They have a Virgin Mary statue at the top of this hill. Not sure who started this craze, but they like to put statues on hills over here. The first thing we noticed was the layer of smog that was covering the city. Santiago is another megalopolis with 6.6million people sat within this valley, and the air quality shows it. From this vantage point above the smog, the snow fields were clearly in sight, making me even more annoyed that we hadn’t made it up there.

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We made our way back down to the city and after some Japanese for lunch, we got to the central square Plaza de Armas to join a free walking tour of the city. There was a Cuban dance movement going on in the square which was really strange, but the guide Philippe said that every day there is a different movement or protest or activity happening in this square!

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We started the tour and Philippe had excellent English and explained the historical situation of Santiago from the Spanish settlement, the native Mapuche people, political turmoil and problems that have shaped Chile. It was all very interesting to hear as we walked from building to building in the city.

The group only had 10 people on the tour so we chatted with everyone on the walks. We talked a fair bit with a couple who had come to South America after working for a while on cruise ships round the world. Hayley was from Australia and Vitor was Brazilian and we had a good time chatting about Rio and our respective travel plans.

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We had a drinks break in a nice little café and had a Pisco Sour (Chilean version rather than Peruvian). They were damn strong!! I had a good chat with Philippe about lots of things and it was interesting to hear his account of the 8.8 Earthquake that hit Chile last year. We were shown the effects on the theatre which have not been patched up yet

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The tour ended at dusk up at the HILL so we decided to get some dinner with Hayley and Vitor. We went to the best seafood place in town (that’s what Philippe had told us) and yeah, it was really nice. We had a few traditional Chilean seafood dishes. It was nice to sit down and chat some more about all the places we had been to in our time and share stories and tips with each other.

We got the metro back to the hostel and packed up the bags ready for an early morning start to head to Easter Island.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – I was always thinking about how I would have liked to make it to the snow slopes while in Santiago. The tour was interesting and a good way to see the main things though and I don’t think we need to come back and spend much time here now at the end of our time in South America either. It was nice to meet Hayley and Vitor and share a good dinner with them.

Tanya – It was just a flying visit to Santiago, and only by accident really. The city was nice, particularly being surrounded by snow covered mountains. The centre is very European looking due to the history with the Spanish. Plaza de Armas had a vibrant feel - definitely worth a visit.

Posted by dbgomes 18:23 Archived in Chile Tagged chile round_the_world Comments (3)

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